F.A.S.T. quartet can take inquiry to court: Tautua
The Tautua Party believes the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party Members who are the targets of a Commission of Inquiry can question its constitutionality in the Supreme Court.
President of the Tautua Party Executive Committee, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that he believes that the four F.A.S.T. party Members La’auli Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong can challenge the matter in the court.
“For the sake of the integrity of Parliament, the F.A.S.T. party can challenge the Commission of Inquiry,” he said.
“We did talk about the issue and firstly, looking from outside, it is after all a Parliamentary issue hence our neutral position on this matter.
“However, it has to be said that despite the [Prime Minister] using Parliamentary Standing Orders, it is their prerogative whether to go through with the Commission of Inquiry, after all they do have the majority vote, nonetheless any motion will be passed.”
And while the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) had the majority numbers of the floor of the Legislative Assembly, Afualo said that in order to protect the integrity of the Parliament, the new party can take the matter to the court as Olo and Faumuina did late last year after the Speaker declared their seats vacant.
Speaking in the last week of the Parliament’s sitting last week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the impetus behind the motion to set up the inquiry is to protect the integrity of the Parliament, which he claims has been tarnished in the final session of the Legislative Assembly.
He said the motion is in line with section 65 of Parliament's Standing Orders.
“For the weeks of Parliament prior to the general election where Members of Parliament Laauli Leuatea, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong’s absence from Parliament, violating Standing Orders, hence the motion for a [Commission of] Inquiry,” said the Prime Minister.
“They did not attend Parliamentary sessions between 19 January 2021 to 2 March 2021, without legitimate reasons and without official approval from the Speaker of the House; they conducted their election campaigns for their political party instead of attending Parliament sessions, as they held these election campaigns during Parliament sessions; in violation of section 24 and 25 of Parliament's Standing Orders.”
But Afualo expressed surprise at the turn of events in the Parliament last week in an interview with this newspaper, and added that he is concerned at the divisions it could create among the people.
“We speculated that something will happen, but from a neutral perspective, although we were expecting something later on, after the election but not what is happening now,” he said.
“However at the end of the day, the decision to call for an Inquiry clearly indicates there is trouble in the horizon.
“It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, the people have taken sides now and are coming out now in full strength in supporting their political party.”
Giving brief details of the Commission of Inquiry’s terms of reference, Tuilaepa said it will look at the F.A.S.T. party quartet's absence from the Parliament from 19 January to 2 March without the Speaker’s official approval; the making false claims against Members of Parliament on social media; and holding roadshows and misleading the public in relation to development projects which he described as “treasonous acts”.
The membership of the inquiry’s committee will comprise a retired Judge, the Ombudsman and a Private Senior Lawyer. The committee will also have authority as stipulated under the Commissioner of Inquiry Act 1964 and will submit their report within three months to the Legislative Clerk.